This folly has been derived from the following message:
Hebrews 10:19-25 is a wake-up call for professing Christians who might not live for Christ. It is a humbling reminder for those who have been saved by grace to act like it. Ultimately, it is a warning and exhortation to stop playing games with God and commit to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The entire book of Hebrews is a Holy Spirit-inspired sermon. Hebrews 13:22 refers to the letter as a brief “word of exhortation.” Throughout the New Testament, “word of exhortation” is often translated “sermon.” Like a good sermon, Hebrews is full of exposition, illustration, and application. Our text marks the beginning of this sermon’s application section. This is where the preacher raises his voice, points his finger at you, and demands a verdict. Everything the author has carefully communicated in the first ten chapters and eighteen verses have led to this truth.
The purpose of the letter is to pour cement into the faith of Jewish believers. In the first century, not every Jew rejected their Messiah. Many came to saving faith, especially as the apostles and other Christians began preaching in the synagogues. Only, now they had a problem: to confess Christ meant to reject Judaism. By embracing the New Covenant, their Old Covenant way of life had to go.
Christian Jews had much to sift through: their religious views, their political views, their family, their friends, their social support system, all of it. Their former friends started persecuting them. As soon as they left Judaism, all they had was Christ. At that time, the temple was still open, sacrifices were still being made, and the Mosaic Covenant was still limping along even though Christ had already fulfilled the law. So these Jewish believers were under a lot of pressure to leave the church and turn back to the temple.
Hebrews was written to prevent that from happening. It is full of warnings and exhortations to stay the course, hold fast, and remember that Jesus is always better. He is a better priest who has ratified a better covenant. This letter is full of imperatives such as: do not go back to the temple, stay with the church, test your faith, and hold onto the truth with both hands. This is the sermon of Hebrews.
Verses 19-21 act as a summary statement for the big picture of the exposition thus far. The preacher reminds us that we have two gifts (the phrase “since we have” initiates verses 19 and 21). These gifts are the blessings that come from being brought into a New Covenant relationship with God. Every true believer has these gifts.
The first gift is…
1. Direct Access
Verse 19: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places. The holy places were the inner sanctums of the tabernacle and the temple for Old Testament Israel. The holiest place (the holy of holies) contained the material symbol of His invisible presence over the cherubim. However, the preacher is not referring to those places. He is writing about the true spiritual dwelling of God Himself, His throne. This is the most holy of all holy places.
We have been given access by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:12). His sacrifice is the key to entering God’s presence. Once we have access, we do not enter fearfully, but confidently. We don’t crawl to the throne or inch our way to God with our tail between our legs. We have confidence, courage, and certainty. There is a boldness with which we approach God (Hebrews 4:16).
How is direct access possible? What right do we have to open the door and address God with boldness, determination, and confidence? Verse 20: by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. This new and living way is wrapped up in Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It is a new way because everyone before the cross did not have it. Those who lived by faith in ancient times looked forward to having it, but they did not possess the direct access we have in the New Covenant. They enjoyed all the benefits of prayer, but were still limited in their experience.
In Leviticus 16:2, the Lord said to Moses “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.” The high priest was allowed to enter God’s presence once a year on the Day of Atonement. Even then, he had to be careful. Originally this word “new” meant “slaughtered in advance” or “freshly slaughtered.” So there might even be a little word-play here as the preacher points us to the recent arrival of our slaughtered Savior who conquered death and is alive today. The writer could have used a far more common chronological word for “new,” but chose a word which once carried the stench of death in its meaning.
The good news about this “new and living way” is that it will never get old. The New Covenant will always remain new. A thousand years from now, our direct access to God Himself will remain as fresh and alive as ever. Jesus is our entry point. He has defeated death and will never die again. So long as Jesus lives, the door is open and our way to God is unrestricted.
Jesus has opened the way for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. Before the cross, no one was allowed to enter the holy of holies except one man once a year. Even then, He had to pass through a large veil (or curtain) that hung on four golden pillars.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus’ body is our curtain. It both hides and provides access to God. To the watching world, His true humanity hides His true divinity. It is as the Christmas carol says, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity.” His physical body was the curtain that hid His immeasurable splendor. Only those who were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration caught a glimpse of His glory as He pulled the curtain back, just a little.
It wasn’t until His body was torn on the cross that the temple’s curtain was symbolically ripped apart as well. As a result, all men may now have direct access to God by entering through another veil. No one will enter His presence without first passing through the curtain of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus is the only way of salvation. No one gets to the Father without going through the Son. It is because of Jesus, we can confidently knock on the door, and enter into a relationship with God the Father.
The second gift is…
2. Divine Advocacy
Verse 21: and since we have a great priest. Jesus is more than a great high priest; He is the greatest and highest priest. He is so great, He only needed to make one sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-14).
Over the house of God. God’s house is composed of the church (Hebrews 3:6). As members of His household, we have a divine advocate who is seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty, ministering on our behalf (Hebrews 8).
In summation, sinful man and holy God can come together because of Jesus. Apart from Him, we are all condemned men and women. Our sin separates us from God and testifies against us. We have hated God, loved ourselves, and worshipped pleasure. By our own merit, none of us have the right to knock on God’s door (let alone enter in with confidence).
Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, born of a virgin, entered into this sinful world as the only man without sin. He was born under the law and obeyed God’s law perfectly. He lived a sinless life of flawless obedience. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. This perfect God-man died a criminal’s death and suffered the fullness of God’s wrath against sinners. He took the punishment law-breakers deserve in order to justify sinners before a holy God. Anyone who trusts in Him and His sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins will be saved. This is good news for great sinners because God has provided a greater Savior.
The Christian’s story does not stop there, though. If Christ has saved you, how then should you live? What is the proper response for those who have accepted these New Covenant gifts? If you have received direct access and divine advocacy, now what?
Having summarized the message that Jesus is superior in every way and has changed everything, the preacher will now show us what a changed life looks like so we can examine ourselves and test the validity of our faith. This is, after all, the application section of the sermon.
He provides three encouraging exhortations for struggling believers.
These commands are for those who know the truth, accept the truth, but might not live the truth. Perhaps you believe in Jesus, but you lack the confidence you need to approach God. Maybe your commitment to the Lord is present, but it comes with strings. You might come to church, but refuse to share your faith; or you might give in the offering, but your time is too valuable to serve.
Hebrews 10 is a wake-up call for the uncommitted Christian to get off the bench and back in the game. It illustrates an appropriate threefold response of commitment to the person and work of Christ.
Because of Jesus, let us…
1. Remain Faithful
Verse 22: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. This command to draw near is a command to go all the way with God. It is not an ‘on again/off again’ approach to godly living, but a commitment that rejects the world and pursues Christ. The preacher is talking about worship. He is fostering loyalty and dedication by encouraging us to run to our Savior.
The true believer does not run-away from Christ or admire Him from a distance. Rather, he draws near to Him with a true heart. A true heart is a sincere heart that does what it is supposed to do. It loves God and hates sin. It rejects wickedness and pursues righteousness. It dies to self and lives for Christ. We must run to the Savior with such a heart. One that is humble, submissive, thankful, and honest.
He adds, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. This is the result of remaining faithful and drawing near to God. He is referring to the cleansing methods of the Levitical sacrifices. Before entering the holy places, the priest would strip down to his tunic and wash himself from head to toe. He would also clean all of his equipment before entering. However, this is also New Covenant language for the Lord’s work inside of a man (Ezekiel 35:25-26). He takes a conscience that has been twisted by sin and washes it clean with the blood of Christ.
Essentially, the preacher is telling us to come to God with a sincere, undivided heart, full of assurance and trust that God will accept us in the name of His Son, knowing that our guilt has been removed by the washing of His blood. According to God the Father, every sinner plunged beneath this crimson flood is clean.
Because of Jesus, let us…
2. Remain Fastened
Verse 23: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. This word “hold fast” means “to cling to” or “to take.” It is not enough to sign a card, get wet, and join a church. If you are going to claim Christ, you have to own your confession of the truth and hold on to it with both hands. You must possess and treasure it as the most valuable thing you own.
Your confession is more than simply a verbal affirmation. It is a rock-solid commitment. The preacher says without wavering, without waffling, without looking to the left or to the right. For the original listeners of this sermon, the temptation was to return to Judaism. A single-minded stand for Christ was unpopular and costly, much like it can be for us today. We must remain fastened. This point is repeated all throughout the letter (Hebrews 3:6; 3:14; 4:14). The true believer has a faith that holds on to Christ.
When we fall into sin and our grip loosens, God will never let go of us. He will order our steps, number our days, and finish the work He began for He who promised is faithful. God will never let go of us, so we should tighten our grip on Him. We cannot lose with God. He is as good as His Word and He has never backed out of a promise. The one who truly knows God, knows this about God. His perfect characters lays the foundation for our faith as we trust Him to do everything He has promised to do.
Finally… because of Jesus, let us…
3. Remain Fruitful
Verse 24: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. This is what Christians do. We don’t sit on a rock and contemplate our navels. We put our minds to work by considering how to stir up one another to love and good works.
This word “consider” means “to set your mind upon” or “to think critically of.” The verb “to stir up” literally means “to provoke” or “to incite.” It typically carries a negative sense, but here it is used positively for irritating believers in a good way. The command is to dedicate your mind towards provoking other Christians to love and good works.
Verse 25: Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. This verse is often used in isolation to encourage perfect attendance at Sunday gatherings. However, the author’s intention drills deeper than that. In the context of the book and the surrounding verses, Hebrews 10:25 is referring to those Jews who profess Christ, join a church, and then leave to go back to the temple. Technically, the preacher is addressing apostacy.
After highlighting the positive benefits of accepting the New Covenant, verse 25 acts as a transitionary hinge into the negative side of rejecting this covenant. This subjunctive is the immediate antecedent and closest qualifier to the chilling statement of verse 26: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
Prison, pandemics, natural disasters, and other providential acts may separate believers from fellowship. You are not in danger of losing your God-given, God-secured, God-promised salvation if circumstances in life prevent you from gathering. However, you may prove yourself to be a false convert and apostatize if you reject Christ and turn your back on His people.
An attitude is also buried beneath this warning. We are told to not be like the wafflers who come in and go out. We should not be like those who join a church, leave, and come back again without a full commitment. These are those who profess Christ, but never draw near to Him. Instead, we should lock arms and encourage one another. Essentially, we are to think about our brothers and sisters, provoke them to do good, and encourage them to hold fast to the truth until our King returns.
In other words, Hebrews 10:25 is not so much about making it to church when we can. It is about remaining fruitful when we do come together (at all times in every way). The man who sincerely loves God with a faithful heart of commitment and cultivates an encouraging mindset towards other believers has nothing to fear. He will not fall away.
There is only one way to approach the God of Heaven. Your greatest sacrifice is not good enough. Your best behavior, highest honor, and towering track-record will not open the door or force God to accept you. The only way to enter God’s presence (that is a living, vibrant, functioning relationship with Him) is to enter through the curtain of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
You might say, “I believe in the Gospel, but how can I draw near to God with a true heart? I might be saved, but I’m still a sinner!” Take your guilt to Jesus and still draw near to God. Our standing with God is not based on our character, but Jesus’ righteousness. Charles Spurgeon asked the question, “Is this not a delightful thought: that when I come before the throne of God, I feel myself a sinner, but God does not look upon me as one?” What a delightful thought indeed! That God would look upon you in your current sinful state, but not see you as a sinner!
It is because of Jesus, you can approach your holy God knowing that Jesus’ righteousness has been credited to your account. When you blow it big time and you know your heart is a liar, you can still draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. It is the full assurance of faith inside the heart that makes the heart true. A sincere heart is a believing heart that trusts the promises of God and draws near to Him.
Remain faithful (full of faith), enter the holy places, and draw near to Christ. Turn off the news and listen to a sermon. Stop reading everyone’s opinion online and start reading your Bible. Draw near to the Lord. He should be our strongest pursuit. After all, we were made to worship Him.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said…
It is only when I am near to God in Christ that I know my sins are forgiven. I feel His love, I know I am His child and I enjoy the priceless blessings of peace with God and peace within and peace with others. I am aware of His love and I am given a joy that the world can neither give nor take away.
If you want to know that you are saved or get back in the game, draw near to the Lord and remain faithful. If you have a hard time believing in the faithfulness of God, study the Scriptures for yourself. You will discover a good God who sovereignly orchestrates all things according to His perfect will. Everyone else will let you down, but if you hold fast to Christ, He will never disappoint you.
A change of heart will produce a change in action. The threefold command for us to consider, provoke, and encourage are natural and fitting for members of God’s household. Unfortunately, our churches are full of people who prefer the adrenaline rush of drama and conflict over love. Let’s not be like them. The only buttons worth pushing are those that lead others towards godly attitude and action.
As the current global crisis (Covid-19 pandemic) lingers on, Hebrews 10:25 is rising in popularity. The argument goes something like this: God tells us to not neglect meeting. The government has told churches not to meet during this pandemic. Therefore, we must obey God rather than men, commit civil disobedience, and meet anyway. However, Hebrews 10:25 is about actively encouraging one another away from apostacy. It is not a call to gather at all cost and it certainly does not provide a free pass for us to disobey our leaders.
Rather, we should heed the warning and examine ourselves. If I left the church, would anyone miss me? Do I long for the fellowship of like-minded believers or am I enjoying the break this quarantine provides? Have I stirred up others to love and good works with phone calls, emails, cards, meals, etc.? What am I doing to encourage others to stay the course and cling to Christ?
Our local church will gather together again, soon enough. The question before us today, is not so much when but how? Will we be a half-committed church? Or will we be confident, Christ-centered, confessors of the truth, choosing encouragement as our ever increasing habit, as we get closer and closer to the return of Christ? Church, it’s time to decide.
Let me conclude with a final appeal to three groups of people.
First of all, if you are an unbeliever, come to Christ today. Draw near to Him, repent of your sin and He will wash your conscience clean. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, that He is King and Master of all things. If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you too will be raised to life on the last day. The day is coming, when this Jesus will return, and He will judge every man according to his deeds. The only hope you have is to cling to the cross of Christ and hold fast to the truth of this confession. If you have not done so already, come to Jesus today.
Now, to the waffler. The one who lacks confidence and assurance. The one who keeps the seats warm on Sunday, but does little to serve the body. You are probably enjoying the break. If you prefer sleeping in and not dealing with people since this pandemic began, to you I would say, draw near to Jesus with a sincere heart. Get off the fence. Get off the bench and into the game. Stop messing around. Like Peter, “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). You can approach God with confidence, as a great sinner washed by a great Savior. Wake up and draw near to Jesus.
Finally, to the committed Christian, hold fast to your confession. We might not see each other on Sundays for a while, but we can still consider, provoke, and encourage one another. Because of Jesus, we have direct access and divine advocacy. Let’s grow deeper and wider in our faith as we long for the day when we are joyfully reunited.
If you have ever heard me preach, you know I am a fan of Charles Spurgeon. At the time of his ministry in the 19th century, an influential preacher named Joseph Parker occupied another pulpit in London. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of the children who were being admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. When word got back to Spurgeon, however, it was reported that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself. Now, Spurgeon certainly had fire in the pulpit. However, he also had a fiery temper. So, the next Sunday, he blasted Parker from his pulpit.
There was nothing private about the affair. His church sat 5,000 people with standing room for another 1,000. Spurgeon’s rant became the talk of the town. The newspapers printed the attack. The following Sunday, Londoners flooded into parker’s church anxious to hear his rebuttal. Here’s what the man said, “I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here, instead.”
The crowd was delighted! They passed the collection plates. The ushers had to empty them at least three times. Later that week, there was a knock on the door at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. He entered the room and said, “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me, not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.”
It’s funny how a kind word can pour cold water on a fiery temper. How a single act of grace can humble a great man and change his attitude, his disposition, his thinking.
Like many of you, I have been working from home for the majority of this pandemic. My kids have been trained to ask Mom before barging into my home office to show me something. You can imagine the scene. There I am… intensely focusing on the study of God’s Word, when I hear the words “Mom!!! Can I show Dad something?!” My daughter’s voice echoing through the door and down the hall. At least, it’s a step in the right direction, right? And yet, my kids know they can open my door anytime and I will be there for them. Why? Because they are my kids.
How much more so, does the God of creation care for His children who have been given direct access to His throne by the blood of His precious Son? He will never say, “I’m too busy. Come back later!” He will never say, “I saw what you did this morning! How dare you come before me!” Instead, He looks at you, sees the blood of Jesus, opens His arms, and says, “Come in.”
Let me share something I saw a pastor post online. I really appreciate what he has to say.
Christians, before you criticize the government putting the church into non-essential business, ask yourself first, did you do the same as a Christian? Did you treat the church as non-essential in your life? Did you skip services? Did you come 10 minutes late or perhaps 30 minutes late? Did you put church after your dream job, your big client meeting, your family road trip? Did you treat the worship service as nothing more than a music concert or entertainment? Did you listen to sermons no different than self-help psychology? Don’t be silly, we as Christians have long treated church as non-essential, that’s why the world sees through our hypocrisy. No need to win a debate, win your souls.
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, ed. Elliot Ritzema and Jessi Strong, Spurgeon Commentary Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010).
F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990).
Heinrich Seesemann, “Παροξύνω, Παροξυσμός,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–).
J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008).
John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Hebrews (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008).
Leon Morris, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).
Richard D. Phillips, Hebrews, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006).
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Priests and Levites,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988).
William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13, vol. 47B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1991).